Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Going Solo

A lot of lawyers dream of opening their own practice. Some do it at the start of their career, some decide to go solo after years of practicing for other firms. No matter what stage of your career you are in, here are three questions you should ask yourself when evaluating whether it is the right time to open your own practice.

Am I financially stable?

Going solo takes a lot of time and hard work. Along with that hard work, it takes some perseverance; clients don’t just walk in the door as soon as you open your firm. Plan to have reserve funds for about 6-9 months of no income before you open your own firm. First of all, you don’t want to be in the middle of following your dream and have to quit because of funds or get discouraged during the first few months. Second, you, as an attorney, are entrusted with client’s funds and must remember that your clients’ money is off limits until you’ve earned those funds.

Am I humble enough?

Most of us lawyers are prideful. When you open your own firm, you need to put that pride aside and humble yourself. You are going to have to be willing to ask for help during this process. Prepare yourself to seek help from family, friends, colleagues, other attorneys, mentors, teachers, and the list goes on. When you don’t know something, ask someone who does. You will get yourself into trouble quickly if you aren’t able to admit when you are unsure of something and find out the right answer.

Do I understand business?

We went to school to study the law and be lawyers. And many of you out there are fantastic at what you do! But did you go to business school? Do you understand the business lingo and how to make sound business decisions? Sometimes this involves declining to represent a client, sometimes this involves how to set up your business. Make sure you at least understand the basics of running a business. If you don’t understand the basics, considering hiring someone, maybe just part-time, to help run the business side of things. This will free you up to do exactly what you love: practice law.

I could go on and on with more questions to ask yourself but these should get you started. If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, think long and hard before taking the leap and opening a solo practice. It’s a tough business to be in, but I think most of us would say it is worth the hardwork!

About Cassie Baudean Cunningham

Cassie Baudean Cunningham
I am a solo practitioner based in Richmond, Virginia practicing in the areas of family law, estate planning and employment law. When I’m not practicing law, I sit on the Board of a local non-profit called Hanover Cares as well as the Young Women’s Leadership Alliance of YWCA of Richmond. I also serve as a mentor to newly licensed attorneys at the Richmond Legal Development Center.

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  • Dina Lynch Eisenberg

    Truly good questions to ask and deeply ponder, Cassie. I’d add one more question: Am I ready to delegate and lead a team?

    Building a solo practice is much easier and faster when you have qualified help to pick up the slack but we aren’t taught as lawyers to manage employees or contractors. The key in delegation is understanding YOU and how you can collaborate best with others. Those who want to learn this skill will find resources at http://MyWealthyPractice.com

  • I am also planning to start working alone as currently I am working with a law firm.The points you suggest to ponder before taking any step is really necessary.People should think about it.And one more important thing which must be considered is do I be a team lead or a leader.

  • Cassie great points you a raised. People should bother to think about these points.